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Moneybox Saturday, 26 October, 2002, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
800m lost in pension wind ups
Pile of banknotes
Company insolvency is the main reason pension schemes wind up

Millions of pounds of members benefits are lost as final salary schemes are wound up inefficiently, according to new research.

Nearly 300 final salary pension schemes were wound up last year affecting up to 40,000 workers.

But Highham Nobbs' report says the average pension scheme wind up takes too long and costs too much.

More than 40% of final salary schemes take more than four years to wind up.

The longer it takes, the more it costs, and those costs must be met from the money which should provide pensions.

Concern

Antony Miller is a partner with HighamNobbs. He told the BBC's Money Box programme he was concerned at the time it was taking to close down schemes.

"We actually believe that wind ups should be done within two years and that is generally what we are saying to trustees."

HighamNobbs estimates what it calls an "inefficient approach to winding up" has cost pension fund members 800m.

Inexperience

Antony Miller argues one problem is that the pension fund trustees may not have any experience of what is an increasingly complicated process.

"Trustees are in the difficult position of having to look after members' interests whilst ensuring compliance with complex legislation and facing the potential risk of litigation should things go wrong".

The research found that a "worryingly small" number of pension trustees shopped around before appointing a firm to wind up their scheme, and this meant they may not be getting the best deal for their members.

"Where potential savings are not exploited, it is ultimately the individual scheme members who pay the price".

New powers

The Pensions Regulator Opra was given new powers in April 2002 which compel schemes which began winding up before 1990 to provide regular progress updates.

Opra estimated around 4000 pension schemes would be affected. To date it has received around reports from around 400 schemes. Of those, 350 are now officially wound up.

Opra can issue what are called "directions" to insist schemes are wound up more quickly.

In extreme cases it can fine individuals up to 5000 and organisations up to 50,000.

By 2006 all schemes in wind up will have to make regular reports to the regulator.

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24 Oct 02 | Business
21 Oct 02 | Politics
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